A police officer attends the scene at the Queen Street subway station entrance in Toronto on Friday Dec. 13, 2013. Toronto TV station CP24 is reporting that one person has been rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Doug Ives/Canadian Press
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is probing a shooting at the Queen subway station in downtown Toronto that sent a young man to hospital and holiday shoppers running for their lives.
Shots rang out inside the station around 8 p.m. Friday, sending an 18-year-old man to hospital with life-threatening injuries. The station connects to the south end of the busy Eaton Centre shopping mall.
It was “like a nightmare,” said witness Jane Whitbread, who was in the mall at the time. “I saw some people running … I just ran away. I was so scared.”
Some reported hearing as many as 15 shots.
“A lot of people were Christmas shopping,” said retailer Giovanni Lopez.
“It was one of the busiest Fridays, obviously, of the month, and all of a sudden the store just got empty, all of a sudden, and we didn't know why. And as soon as we looked out the windows there was a lot of police,” he said.
The SIU’s Carm Piro said a total of nine officers responded to reports of a "suspicious person" on a subway train.
He said the person had a weapon, but wouldn't elaborate. Four officers are believed to have fired their guns.
"We haven't been able to determine which officer has caused those injuries," said Piro
The SIU earlier said the man was in stable condition in hospital but didn't offer an update on his condition. It isn't releasing his name because his family won't consent to it.
The SIU has assigned nine investigators and four forensic experts to investigate the incident.
The SIU is called in whenever police officers are involved in incidents in which someone has been seriously injured, dies or alleges sexual assault.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the lead investigator at (416) 622-1898 or 1 (800) 787-8529 extension 1898.
Second shooting on transit
The Yonge Street subway line remained shutdown, from Bloor Street to Union Station, until Saturday afternoon, complicating things for many holiday shoppers. Shuttle buses ran up and down Yonge Street.
“It's annoying, it's definitely annoying,” said transit rider Alex Desilva of the disruption. “But it’s for safety.”
The shooting is the second time this year police have used lethal force on city transit.
It comes after the fatal police shooting in late July of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on an empty streetcar, an incident caught on video that sparked noisy protests and accusations that officers are too eager to go for their guns in confrontations.
An officer faces a second-degree murder charge in Yatim's death, while the police service has also launched a review of its use-of-force policies.
Meanwhile, an ongoing coroner's inquest is looking into the deaths of three Toronto-area residents who were gunned down by police at different times over the past three years.
The Eaton Centre itself was the scene of a shooting in June 2012 that left one dead and 17 injured.